A trip into the unknown: How the F1 teams will approach the Australian Grand Prix
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Posted By: James Allen  |  12 Mar 2014   |  5:39 am GMT  |  270 comments

After a winter in which they have coped with a huge rule change, introducing complex hybrid turbo engines, the F1 teams arrive in Melbourne less well prepared for the first race than at any time in recent memory. Only Mercedes and Williams can be said to have achieved the 5,000km target mileage in the three winter tests, while Ferrari were not far off with 500km less.

Others, like Red Bull (1,700km) and their fellow Renault powered teams including last year’s Melbourne winners Lotus, are underprepared and will find Melbourne a struggle this year.

Reliability of the new 1.6 litre engines with their powerful Energy Recovery Systems is the main concern, even for the Mercedes powered teams and we may well see half the field or more failing to reach the chequered flag.

The ERS will add a new dimension to the race strategy this season, with more options for drivers as they battle for position, in deploying the 160hp boost it gives. This will make the racing more “cat and mouse”, with lots of tactics at play in both overtaking and defending.

Releasing all of the stored energy in ERS in one lap will give a performance gain of around 1.5 seconds compared to not doing that. This is the best mode for a single qualifying lap, but in a race it might give short term gain but the system will need recharging on the next lap, so there is a trade-off.

Although the picture is sketchy, analysis of the lap times from the final test session in Bahrain early this month indicates that Mercedes have an advantage in performance and are therefore the favourites for the first Grand Prix. Williams and Ferrari are expected to compete for a podium finish. Behind them are the other Mercedes powered teams Force India and McLaren and after that it is hard to say who is where in the pecking order.

McLaren has won two of the last five Australian Grands Prix and Jenson Button is a three-time winner. Kimi Raikkonen has won the race twice, including last year. Of the current drivers Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, and Fernando Alonso have all won once. So all five F1 champions in the field have won this race.


Track characteristics

[Map: FIA. Click to enlarge map]

Albert Park Circuit; 5.303 kilometres. Race distance: 58 laps = 307.574 kilometres; 16 corners in total, none particularly fast.

Aerodynamic setup – Medium/high downforce. Top speed 318km/h (with Drag Reduction System on rear wing) – 308km/h without.

Full throttle – 64% of the lap. Total fuel permitted for race distance: 100 kilos.

Time spent braking: 13% of the lap. 8 braking zones. Brake wear: High.

Time needed for a Pit stop = 23 seconds – Pit lane = 280 metres

Fuel effect (cost in lap time per 10kg of fuel carried): 0.34 seconds

Weather forecast

The forecast for Saturday is for a warm dry day with temperatures around 28 degrees, while Sunday will be cooler with a 60% chance of rain.


Likely tyre performance

Pirelli tyre choice for Melbourne: Soft and Medium.

Although the arrival of the new technology is exciting and adds a new dimension to the tactical side of the racing, the tyres are still the primary consideration when It comes to race strategy planning.

The tyres this season are quite different from last year’s in that they are more durable. This is to deal with the greatly increased torque from the hybrid turbo engines, which causes wheelspin.

Pirelli’s objective was to make all four tyres in the range one step harder than last year. So the choice of soft and medium means that the option tyre (the soft) is two steps harder than Pirelli’s option tyre last year, which was supersoft.
The performance difference between the two compounds this year will be around 1.2 to 1.5 seconds per lap, which will mean that teams will seek to spend as little time on the medium as possible.

The tyres often experience graining at Albert Park. Graining is where the rubber shears away from the top surface, caused by a high level of sliding at high loads, both lateral and longitudinal. Lateral comes from sliding in corners, longitudinal comes from acceleration and braking.

Temperature has a lot to do with it, probably more than any other factor. If the tyres are being used below their operating range the rubber will be less compliant and will shear off more easily.

The track surface at Albert Park is quite old and has low micro and macro roughness, which basically means that the stones in it are small. The result of its age and smoothness is that the surface is very low grip and this means that the tyres grain laterally here because the car slides in the corners.


Number and likely timing of pit stops

As the pitlane in Melbourne is one of the longest of the season at 280 metres and because of the 60km\h limit, it is not desirable to make multiple stops.

Based on this, and all the above considerations, plus tyre performance data from testing, the expectation, before any practice running has been done, is that the teams will intend to make two stops in the race,

The first will be around lap 17 to 20 and the second around lap 40-45. Teams will want to spend as little time as possible on the slower medium compound tyre.


Chance of a safety car

The chance of a safety car at Albert Park is 60%, although there have been safety cars in four of the last six years. The average number of safety car interventions for the race is 1.7 (in 2006 there were four).

Recent start performance of drivers and teams

Starts are a critical part of the race and strategy can be badly compromised by a poor start, while good starts can make strategists change their plans in the hope of a good result.

As this is the first race of the 2014 season – no start data has been established yet.


The UBS Race Strategy Briefing is prepared by JA on F1, with input and data from several F1 teams and from Pirelli

For a cool at a glance graphic of the key strategy points for the Australian GP go to Australian GP Strategy Infographic

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270 Comments
  1. Tim says:

    I don’t expect to see this happen, but let’s pretend for a moment it does: What happens if no car makes 90% race distance? Is noone awarded any points or podium places?

    1. Random 79 says:

      That’s about the size of it, although I think in that instance they should all have an egg and spoon race to decide the winner :)

      1. Gudien says:

        Don’t let Bernie hear you or he’ll make it part of qualifying.

        Isn’t this great?

      2. C63 says:

        Personally, I would prefer rock, scissors paper 8-)

      3. Kramgp says:

        I saw a great cartoon in the paper a few years ago. It depicted 2 cavemen playing Rock Paper Scissors. The joke being it was always a draw as paper and scissors hadn’t been invented

      4. Gaz Boy says:

        Good idea, but what about the old fashioned Le Mans start in reverse – all the drivers get out of their broken down cars and run to the finish line?
        PS – Remember, Kimi prefers a choc ice.

      5. Random 79 says:

        Nah, we’re saving that for Formula E :)

      6. Phil says:

        I think after today’s press conference we’d have to call that a Ricciardo finish!

      7. Red Rider says:

        Yes, I’d love to see Alonso and Hamilton and the rest with egg and spoon in hand. They’d start off with Charlie Whiting saying, “Get cracking.”

      8. Random 79 says:

        Nice one :)

      9. Gaz Boy says:

        Mind you, Lewis may “accidentally” run into one of his competitors, causing them to drop their egg/s and causing them to pit for a fresh egg! Lewis would then be punished by having to go through the pitlane at crawling speed!

    2. BW says:

      Only if no car makes two laps. If any car gets into third lap, half points shall be awarded and it’s driving 90% of number of laps covered by leader (and not of the race distance) that is necessary for any car to be classified.

      1. Stephen Taylor says:

        I reckon we’ll be seeing the awarding half points on Sunday as I think no driver will make 75% of the race distance.

    3. Pod says:

      The fans start to riot and demand their money back?

    4. Doug says:

      AFAIAA, Half points are available to anyone who completes over 50% distance…it’s certainly what happened when the GP got rained off early a few years ago. If one person makes it to the end then full points would be awarded going back through the field, i.e. the 2nd person may have stopped 2 laps from the end, the 3rd 4 laps etc.

      1. KRB says:

        Half-points are awarded after the second lap. Full points kick in upon hitting 75% distance.

    5. aezy_doc says:

      It’s the person who gets furthest who gets the points. I believe if the leader makes less than 75% distance, they all get awarded half points.

    6. Martin says:

      That would be my understanding (ignoring races stopped early).

    7. Brent says:

      Monaco 1996 there were 3 that made it to the line, but that is the least number of finishers I can see. I wonder if they have made provisions for your scenario?

    8. Wade Parmino says:

      Isn’t 75% race distance enough for half points? If a single car didn’t make it this far, it would be an unprecedented shocking disgrace for Formula 1. But, such a scenario would put F1 in the headlines for a bit. Controversy generates publicity.

      I am hoping for a Marussia in the top 10 (could perhaps maybe just happen). :)

    9. iceman says:

      Good question! My reading of the rules is this: if everyone retires before completing the scheduled 58 laps, the two-hour rule will come into play. We will sit watching an empty track until the two hours expires, vainly hoping for anyone to complete some repairs and get out to do another few laps :) At the end of the two hours, whoever completed most laps is the winner. In the event of two or more cars having done the same number of laps, then obviously it’s the one that completed that number of laps first.

      The 90% rule is calculated based on the number of laps completed by the winner, not the scheduled number of laps, so that would still apply, and anyone who completed at least 90% of the winner’s laps will be classified.

    10. iceman says:

      Just to add to my previous answer: awarding of half points only applies if the race is red-flagged. So if it just runs to the two hours, full points would be awarded – even if only a single lap had been completed!

      I guess the option would be open to the stewards to red-flag the race if everyone retired, to cause half points to be awarded if less than 75% race distance had been completed, and to put any remaining spectators out of their misery!

    11. DMyers says:

      There’s probably a provision for that in the rules with half points being awarded, but I don’t see it happening.

    12. Mark Houston says:

      My guess is that they will still award points. Article 6.5 of the sporting regs says “6.5 If a race is suspended under Article 41, and cannot be resumed, no points will be awarded if the leader has completed less than two laps, half points will be awarded if the leader has completed more than two laps but less than 75% of the original race distance and full points will be awarded if the leader has completed 75% or more of the original race distance.”. My guess is that they will this system.

    13. Inner Circle says:

      Presumably they stop the race and half points are awarded.

      1. K5enny says:

        I guess this would be best outcome for Red Bull.

        1/2 points in the first few races — double points for the last few!!

    14. KRB says:

      I would guess that the end-of-race signal would be given, and then however far the leader had made it, would be the race distance that all others would have to have 90% of, to score any points.

      If the leaders’ race distance is less than 75% of the scheduled race distance, then half-points will be awarded.

    15. All revved-up says:

      Was waiting for this discussion thread!

      It’s an interesting philosophical question about F1. Should you award the race to the car that’s completed more laps but no longer running, or the car that’s still running at the end of the 2 hour race.

      If you are going to run out of fuel – do you program the software to take you as far as you can before you run out of fuel – or do you program the software to take you to the end of 2 hours?

      Never thought we’d be debating these types of questions – but this may not be far fetched given the commentary that no cars may make it to the end!

      1. Limelee says:

        The chequered flag is only waved once the leader crosses the line after the two hours. It’s the leader crossing the line that ends the race, not the time limit. If the lead car breaks down, the others can catch up, even if they are behind by more than a lap because only the chequered flag ends the race. You would always program the engine to run the distance, because you could theoretically require the car to run for longer than 2 hourS

    16. CJD says:

      charly whiting on automotorundsport-de

      1. if no car comes around, they have to red flag the race.
      so the result two laps before is counted.
      normal redflag roule – so it can happen that the last car dropping out is not the winner :)

      2. then the distance of the winner is looked at. – over 75% full points, less – half points below 50% – no points

      3. all the cars that did 90% of the racedistance of the “winner” get thier points.

      greetings.

      1. CJD says:

        but if i think about that …

        some comments up there about the 2h rule.

        is charly really allowed to red flag when no car comes around?
        – somebody maybe tries to repair the car – takes 15 min and wants to start racing again?

        is there something in the rules?

      2. iceman says:

        Clause 41.1:
        Should it become necessary to suspend the race because the circuit is blocked by an accident or because weather or other conditions make it dangerous to continue, the clerk of the course will order red flags to be shown at all marshal posts and the abort lights to be shown at the Line.

        That makes it sound like suspension of a race is only allowed for those reasons. However it could also be argued that this clause is really just saying what happens _if_ it becomes necessary to suspend the race, and that the reasons given are just examples of situations where that might be necessary.

        After a red flag it is possible to resume the race of course, if someone is ready to race; but I suspect they wouldn’t do that in a situation like this.

  2. Gravity says:

    We are stepping into an unknown, unchartered territory with no idea on what’s going to happen – very excited!!

    The perception is teams with Merc engine are at an advantage with Ferrari in the Mix. Everyone is anticipating Mercedes team to run away with it! Quite a few are happy that Seb is going to struggle – interesting!!

    Only time (Sunday!?) will tell what the real position of the teams are!!
    If I need to predict, I’ll certainly expect the following:
    1. Lewis / Nico on the front row with Massa/Bottas right behind
    2. None of the Renault cars in the top 10 in quali
    3. More than 30% attrition – expecting a maximum of 14 cars to finish with half of them at least 2 laps behind
    4. Red bull to start from the pit lane!!
    5. At least 2 safety car
    6. Few incident of cars to spinning out of the track
    7. Williams to outscore their 2013 points haul in just 1 race
    8. We will have a surprise winner – Not Lewis, Nico, Seb or Fernando

    1. Bubbi says:

      Cool! Good stuff. :-)

    2. Lee says:

      Expect a slow race as teams take a cautious approach to performance relative to the maximum available from their powertrain prioritising instead reliability.

      Low friction surface, high graining potential, late afternoon start time and low air temps (11 deg), high torque and long pitstop times will also impact on the pace of this race.

      F1 has become the new sportscar racing rather than a sprint series.

      1. Daniel Spiller says:

        Do you mind explaining when F1 was ever a sprint series?

      2. Lee says:

        You’re kidding me aren’t you?

      3. Daniel Spiller says:

        No it’s always been a race involving balancing outright speed, fuel usage, tyre wear and mechanical reliability and not in anyway a SPRINT race.

      4. Robb says:

        I suspect, this being one the worst tracks for fuel economy, and the teams not really having mastered the new systems yet, this will be true. My desperate hope is that once the teams have figured out the fuel usage situation, we’ll see them actually racing rather than trundling along 75% saving fuel.

      5. The Big Dyl says:

        I think you shall find Melbourne around early Autumn is more like 20-25 deg air temp bud

      6. Lee says:

        Perhaps you should review the forecast for 5pm on Sunday – bud

      7. Nullius says:

        Slow and steady is right. How many engines can a team use for the whole season without penalty? Five? (The rules are a bit complicated on this) And the same gearbox for 6 *consecutive* races. Finishing will be every team’s top priority. Performance will be ratcheted up over the season. I look forward to seeing the new tactics.

    3. Andy says:

      What we do know is that not only does Ferrari have a crevice tool for a front nose, but it sounds exactly like a vacuum cleaner when powering down.
      All FA and KR want to know is whether it really sucks or not.

      1. Red Rider says:

        Ha-ha

      2. Gravity says:

        ROFL!!

    4. AndyFov says:

      I’d not be surprised if Seb wins by three laps having pulled off the most comprehensive display of sand-bagging in sporting history.

      1. Equin0x says:

        Hahahahahaha for a split second there I thought you were serious, but imagine if somehow RBR does manage to get the ERS working properly and have the full 15k rpm!? If that was the case there’s no doubt Seb would be nearly the front than back and the Merc teams will then be looking over there shoulders no doubt. In all seriousness though, RBR will probably still be having trouble with the PU and traction issues and be about 2.7sec off the pace and in that case they will be lapped at least once maybe twice if there’s no safety car and Merc runs a hassle free race.

      2. ManOnWheels says:

        It is not unlikely though. Nt because someone has been sandbagging, but because it was generally agreed that in the few testing laps they managed, the Red Bull looked very fast through the corners. Which means: If Red Bull Renault have found a good solution for their unreliability problem, they could still win this race.

    5. Richard says:

      If Mercedes or Williams don’t win, I’m still expecting it to be one of the Mercedes powered teams. Actually in this instance Seb would be a surprise! Will Ferrari get left behind? Once the initial rush off the line is dissipated, it will be interesting to see how the fuel saving strategy works out and the effect on the order.

      1. Gravity says:

        Seb is not a surprise per all the punters – he is still listed as top 5 favorite to win!!

      2. Richard says:

        If that’s the case I suspect it is based on previous years performance not on a practical assessment of the likelyhood of the Renault engine in that car performing well enough to place him in the points. I will be surprised if he manages to score any points in Melbourne, but it also depends how many other cars fail.Personally I think Red Bull will be doing well to finish the race.

    6. **Paul** says:

      I agree with predictions 1-3.

      I think I’d also add in something about pretty massive field spread too (which is one of my major concerns about 2014 F1 as it leads to poor racing).

      Fingers crossed I’m wrong on all counts and what we end up with is close exciting racing, as that’s what I as a fan am hoping we get.

      1. Gravity says:

        I hope we are wrong!!

      2. Tyemz says:

        A fan of close racing? seriously? thought you were a fan of Vettel waltzing into the distance.

      3. **Paul** says:

        I’m a JB fan. I respect Vettels ability, but seeing him disappear wasn’t great to watch. The stuff going on behind him was pretty good though, ALO, HAM, ROS, RAI, GRO & WEB all fighting it out. My fear for this year is that the 0.75s that would normally cover that bunch in pace terms becomes more like 3.5s at which point there is no battle and no racing because they all so seperated.

        Would I like Red Bull to be competitive? Yes, but that applies for Lotus, Ferrari, McLaren, Sauber etc too!.

        I’m not a fan of any driver waltzing off into the distance. Did Vettel make the last 5 or 6 races of last year boring? Yes – the battle for P1 was boring. Only having cars that weren’t massively different in performance terms allowed for those races, which in some cases were good, behind him. I’d much prefer it if Vettel had been in that fight as well. Just as I’d prefer it this year if the sports top drivers were all in the fight.

        Fundamentally it doesn’t matter who is destroying the field in their very fast car, because that’s not what fans want to see. 1997, 2002, 2004 & 2011 were all pretty poor seasons for F1. 1999, 2003, 2007, 2010 & 2012 were all pretty decent though. But that’s because I don’t base what is and isn’t a good season on who wins, but the racing that takes place within it.

        I’d expect those who criticised 2011 & the second half of 2013 to be even more upset if, as many predict, Mercedes have a car which is a whole second a lap faster than anything else out there. Even more so if, unlike 2013, the battle in behind them is so spread out.

        I can’t make it much clearer than that.

      4. Tyemz says:

        You don’t have to make it clearer. Perfectly understood. 2012 was the year 70-90% of the drivers were in the mix of things over 20 race weekends and you couldn’t rule anyone out before the race but 2013 was so boring you could predict who would be starting from what position and who would be finishing where. Hopefully the reliability problems will close up the field and make it impossible for one team to run away with it early on.

    7. Truth or Lies says:

      That’s a pretty good prediction !

      I’d agree with all of your points or at least agree that they are plausible, except “2 safety cars” I think we’ll see a few more than that, when these cars stop, they just stop.

      Will be very interesting and we’ll have first indications from FP1 in less than 48 hrs !!!!!

      Enjoy the weekend.

    8. Chris says:

      8. We will have a surprise winner – Not Lewis, Nico, Seb or Fernando

      – i’d say if Seb won that would BE a surprise?

      1. Gaz Boy says:

        If Sebastian wins on merit – ie turning up, qualifying on pole and waltzing off into the distance to win at a canter that would be the greatest comeback since Lazarus!

      2. David in Sydney says:

        MASSA!

    9. Stephen Taylor says:

      So that’ll be Kimi then.

    10. James says:

      I have my money on Massa. He seems hungry this year and certainly has unfinished business.

    11. Garry J. Berry says:

      Gravity, your predictions are cogent & shrewd – it would be interesting to see what accumulator-odds you would get from the bookies for all to come true – I may even have a punt myself (although I would probably not include your No.4 if my money was involved. Please let me know where I should send your 10% commission!

      Garry.

      1. Gravity says:

        included number 4 to give RB more time to work on the car – last minute fixes ;)

    12. H.Guderian (ALO fan) says:

      What???
      RBR starting from the pit?
      For what reason? Performance? Come on!
      Did you forget that VET is the best over a single lap? And besides that, he is a true genius. He will be the winner this weekend. Trust me.

      1. Andy says:

        Vet will have to get down the pit lane first!!! ;)

      2. C63 says:

        I think you might be trying to wind up the Vettel fans :-)

    13. Wade Parmino says:

      Surprise Winner: Massa. :)

      1. Gaz Boy says:

        That would be great – Felipe Baby hasn’t won a grand prix since November 2008 – 5 years and 4 months ago!

      2. Yago says:

        You know? There is a quite possible scenario that would be epic. The Williams seems to be a great car, and Massa is a very fast driver. He could win in Australia if something happens to the Mercedes guys. Then Alonso is probably outperforming Kimi comprehensively, he has been faster since the beginning of testing, and has always outperformed his teammates in Albert Park. Plus it is Kimi first race with Ferrari.

        If this happens, the face of Domenicalli and Montezemolo would be epic. The driver they sacked winning, and the driver they hired outperformed in the same way the one they sacked. Hahaha Epic!

    14. radi says:

      might as well happen. one thing for sure, it will be great show.

      1. David in Sydney says:

        It will be a fascinating race unless:

        1. The race is stopped early due to no cars running
        2. Running cars poke around for the last 10-15 laps to keep within their fuel limits
        3. There are so many safety cars with continual breakdowns that the race is 1/2 safety car parade.

        And please do not let the race finish under a safety car – I hate that.

      2. James Clayton says:

        “It will be a fascinating race unless:

        1. The race is stopped early due to no cars running”

        I can’t believe there are people who believe that there’s actually a genuine possibility of this happening!

      3. Chuck 32 says:

        Re: James Clayton
        +1

    15. D Vega says:

      If Massa can continue his rocket booster starts at Williams he could lead into the first corner.

      1. Alexander Supertramp says:

        Good observation, looking forward to Felipe’s start.

      2. James Clayton says:

        Considering both Massa and Alonso both generally had good starts, you don’t think it might have been more to do with the car than the driver??

      3. D Vega says:

        Yes; hence, “if.”

      4. Spectreman says:

        @James Clayton

        Agreed. But Massa no doubt has some knowledge of Ferrari’s trick, whatever that was, and surely would try to pass it to his new team.

      5. Spectreman says:

        P.S. I forgot there’s also Big Rob now at Williams, he’s probably being even more useful in passing on Ferrari’s tricks.

      6. James Allen says:

        He doesn’t start for another few weeks

    16. Bob says:

      I like your predictions though I do have to point out given testing performances Seb would be a surprise finisher let alone winner.

    17. threep says:

      “4. Red bull to start from the pit lane!!”

      I think there could be a good many cars starting from the pit lane. Grid position will count less than reliability at the start of the season so the teams will want to rectify any faults found during quali before the lights go out on Sunday.

      1. Limelee says:

        If the cars faulty you can fix it under parcel ferme

    18. Arnie S says:

      2. Don’t underestimate RBR in quali. I think that they might have the speed, but no reliability

    19. ferggsa says:

      @Gravity
      I like your predictions, if you are anywhere near on Sunday I will vote for you to replace Bernie

    20. andrew.cocos says:

      8. Sure thing. Kimi will win :)

  3. Random 79 says:

    The ERS deploys automatically (instead of a button for the old KERS), but I would assume the drivers can change the settings for how it is managed and deployed on the fly.

    Is that correct?

    1. Ed says:

      Yes through engine(now power unit) maps selectable on steering wheel, plus the can (although not sure if all are doing it) have a boost button for a maximum setting to be used overtaking/defending

    2. Gaz Boy says:

      Yes, I think something like that.
      The cars still retain KERS – I think it can be used for acceleration out of slow corners to prevent turbo lag – as well as the ERS.
      Gosh, all those acronyms – Formula 1 will end up like a used car website – for sale, an ex Williams-Mercedes featuring PAS, KERS, ERS, FBB, MGU-H, ESP, RWD. No 4WD. Driven by FM and VB, engineered by RS and PS. Price OA. P/X not available. Please contact CW and FW, at OX12 0DQ. Finance not available.

      1. Random 79 says:

        But no DRS?

        Deal breaker :(

      2. GWD says:

        You forgot OMFG…

      3. Flying Lap says:

        +1

      4. grat says:

        No ESP allowed. Although since the MGU-H can be used to spool up the turbo, and therefore negate turbo-lag, they could (and presumably will) throttle the MGU-H to deliberately induce small, precise amounts of turbo lag, thus managing the torque coming out of the corners in a form of traction control.

  4. goferet says:

    Skoked for the new season for 2014 is just want the fans wanted as it’s taking the sport back to a gone by era.

    Yes seeing as the 2014 cars are more driver skills based and less software based, I think this will separate the special drivers from the good and hence why Alonso asked the FIA not to change the rules for a couple of seasons.

    Despite a chaotic winter testing, it’s ironic because in a long time we have had a winter session that has been characterized by little sandbagging and so we fairly know the cards everybody has.

    Now with rain predicted for the race, this will surely blow the gates of hell wide open for imagine reliability woes coupled by shunts as the drivers try to get used to the extra power in the wet.

    Anyway, wishing the fans a classic and memorable season filled with lots of fun inter-team battles.

    P.s.

    I think Hulkenberg is worth a tenner as the first DNF seeing as he has never finished the race and worse still has never gone past lap 1 in 3 of the last 4 years.

    1. quattro says:

      “Yes seeing as the 2014 cars are more driver skills based and less software based”

      I was thinking the opposite to be true, as software will be have a bigger function both in acceleration and braking phases.
      In acceleration for balancing engine vs ERS contribution to power – and braking, for deciding how to distribute braking power between the braking discs (electric engine) and harvesting for ERS (and controlling it in a intuitive way for the driver).
      My reasoning was that whatever team implements the best system, especially for the braking phase, will have gained there quite some time.
      I hope I am wrong.

      1. goferet says:

        @ quattro

        Well, according to some of the drivers that have been asked, they say that the new cars are a handful and so driver skill will shine through more this time.

      2. grat says:

        That’s always the case– getting the brake balance just right, the throttle maps just right– that’s been crucial for many years now.

        Wonder if anyone else has adopted the trick hydraulic leveling system Mercedes has supposedly been working on for some time?

        That will give them a noticeable advantage in mechanical grip this year.

      3. Chuck 32 says:

        Active suspension? If you can actively control the level of the car then you can control the air under it and the down force. that would be much more effective than a Double diffusor.

      4. grat says:

        It’s not exactly “active”– but it uses passive hydraulics to keep the car just a bit more level.

        http://www.jamesallenonf1.com/2013/04/that-perfect-ride-the-must-have-technical-device-of-2013/

    2. Martin (England) says:

      He didnt race in 2011 so he has never completed a race lap in Oz.

      1. goferet says:

        @ Martin (England)

        Oh I see.

        Thanks.

    3. grat says:

      Maldonado hasn’t finished the Australian GP either.

  5. goferet says:

    Some Melbourne stats:

    Officially been racing since 1996

    i) Schumi 4 wins, Jenson 3 wins, Couthard 2 wins, Kimi 2 wins

    ii) Mclaren 6 wins, Ferrari 6 wins, Renault 2 wins, Williams 1 win, Lotus 1 win, Red Bull 1 win, Brawn 1 win

    iii) Jenson & Kimi are the only pilots to have won in different teams

    iv) The only back to back winners are Schumi & Jenson

    v) The last team to win back to back was Renault in 2005/2006

    vi) Schumi is the only driver with more than 1 win from pole 2001/2004

    vii) Most successful pole sitters are Vettel, Mika & Schumi – 3 poles. Jacques, Jenson & Lewis – 2 poles

    viii) Of the current top drivers, Alonso is the only pilot not to have poled it

    ix) Only nationalities to have been successful >>> Britain, Finland, Spain, Germany & Italy

    x) In 2013, for the first time in Melbourne’s history, we had two back to back seasons were the race winner didn’t go on to claim the title.

    xi) Also in 2013, for the first time, a number 1 driver won the race and didn’t go on to win the title.

    xii) No number 2 driver has won the race and gone on to win the title.

    P.s.

    Considering Massa is new to the Williams team, this would make him the number 2 driver in 2014.

    1. Alexander Supertramp says:

      Felipe, do not win this race, can you confirm you understood the message?

      1. goferet says:

        @ Alexander Supertramp

        Understood Lol

    2. Tyemz says:

      Been waiting for this for months. Let’s go racing!

      1. goferet says:

        @ Tyemz

        Yes, we finally made it. Congrats.

        Now gentlemen, start your engines.

    3. Ed says:

      Which italian has won it? Giancarlo Fishicella?

      1. goferet says:

        @ ED

        Yes, it was Fishicella in 2005.

  6. nusratolla says:

    I cannot really say on how will team and drivers will approach the opening race…. but if Jean Alesi would’ve been around I would’ve said Ten Laps and Pop goes the Weasel…. If Andera de Cesaris would’ve been around I would’ve said next two corners in the barrier. If Alain Prost would’ve been around he would’ve complained about the car. If Ayrton Senna would’ve been around he would’ve complained about Alain Prost. If Flavio Briatore would’ve been around he would’ve built an illegal car, get Alonso to drive for him and make his teammate crash into the barrier.

    So, in short, all the interesting people are no longer in F1…. And Kimi wants to be left alone.

    1. Allan says:

      My favorite quote about De Cesaris (I forget who said it) was from earlier in his career when his car number was 22: “So why does De Cesaris have number 22? Because it is the same number upside down!”

      Having said that, De Cesaris did mature and was a pretty solid hand late in his career.

    2. Red Rider says:

      Ha-ha.

      Ah come on. It’s not so bad. What you got against corporate man. He’s next on the evolution scale. Born with a suitcase in his left had and a cell phone in his right.

  7. PaulL says:

    Word is, Merc can put two laps on the field if they so want.

    1. MISTER says:

      And you believe Horner?

      1. grat says:

        No, but the rumor surfaced before Horner started downplaying expectations. I think Will Buxton started it, based on the idea that Merc is yet to put the hammer all the way down on the engine map.

        Of course, that means HP, which means more fuel burn, so I wouldn’t expect Mercedes to streak off into the sunset in Melbourne.

        Malaysia, though…

      2. PaulL says:

        Yep.

      3. MISTER says:

        Do you still believe Horner?
        Rosberg was not even 30 sec ahead of 2nd place and you believed reports that he could be 2 laps ahead :)

    2. Dan Hoyes says:

      I bet they could. But sadly won’t try it – due to reliability fears…

  8. Franck says:

    Regarding the start, is there still a sort of strategy for the drover to use extra electric power (like Alonso in Spain last year)? Would all renault cars have poor star due to their sub-optimal power unit?
    Thanks

    1. MISTER says:

      What did Alonso do last year in Spain? Please elaborate.

      1. Franck says:

        Hi, I meant Alonso didn’t use all his kers at the start in Spain and keep some for turn 3 to overtalke Lewis. I’m asking if with the new power unit, drivers would be able to use electric power strategically at the start?

  9. janis1207 says:

    Lots of safety car periods are to be expected as the cars will brake down all over the place, and will have to be removed.
    So, this one will be a lot like a lottery this year. Not a race, really.

    1. MISTER says:

      Not really, if you think that they only put safety cars out if debris is on track or a car has stopped in a dangerous zone and marshalls can’t retrive it.
      I expect cars to break down, but more like overheating and electrics and things like that, which means they will be aware of the problem with couple of corners ahead and the driver can park it safely.

  10. Andy says:

    It will be interesting to see if the prder from Bahrain changes as teams bring updates to Melbourne, McLaren I believe didn’t run their Melbourne spec. in Bahrain.
    It will be a long time before the lower teams get such an opportunity to bag some serious points.
    I hope Williams take full advantage and don’t throw away points as they did last year, by not securing wheels properly.
    Sadly I can’t see Williams maintaining their pace relative to the other teams, I think they’ll lose out in the development race in the last half of the season.

  11. Nick says:

    I can’t imagine we’d ever get a situation where only two or three cars finish. Simple reason is that when you the number of cars reduce to below the number of points positions, it’s going to be worth keeping your car out to bag some points as long as it can actually move. So, even if its got no ERS, is on 1 cylinder and can only drive at 10mph it will stay out.

    James, this is a pedantic statistics point that has always slightly irritated me. I don’t believe it’s correct to say the chance of a safety car in a given race is xx%, because that’s how often they’ve occurred in previous races. These are two different things. To illustrate, if there had never been any safety cars at a particular race, would you be saying 0% likelihood of a safety car, i.e. impossible?

    1. Timmay says:

      Not impossible, but highly improbable.

      Circuits with close crash barriers like Melbourne, Montreal, Valencia, Monaco will always have more safety cars. Also those with random weather like Brazil.

      Chance of a safety car on the ultrawide ultrabland ultradry Bahrain & Abu circuits is definitely rounded to zero on a long enough timescale

  12. Neshaen says:

    The unpredictability is killing me! Cant wait for Sunday’s race! Let the games begin!

  13. James Clayton says:

    There’s been a lot of talk about how many cars will finish the race, but how many will actually *start*? If the cars are really a lot more twitchy, and we have a lot of drivers on the grid who’ve never done a standing start from anything other than exhaust-stabilized cars, I see a recipe for at least one race-stopping first lap incident – maybe more. With no spare cars these days, it could make for a pretty skinny grid if there needs to be two restarts!

  14. HR28 says:

    This is OT but this link JA.F1 is no longer updating for me. The last update is titled Hang Loose by Daniel Ricciardo on March 9

    http://connect.jamesallenonf1.com/f1-on-twitter/

    So is it just me?

    1. Racyboy says:

      Me too.

    2. Ed says:

      Same here… remember it doing the same last year for a week or so… hopefully they’ll get it sorted soon

    3. HR28 says:

      James,

      Would appreciate your update on this. This is a really good tool especially for an F1 weekend. Is this a general fault or just my end?

      Your link again:

      http://connect.jamesallenonf1.com/f1-on-twitter/

  15. marc says:

    I don’t think its going to be as bad in attrition rate as a lot of people think. The temperatures will help and the teams will be ultra cautious at the start however I may have to eat my hat.

  16. Stickymart says:

    I think people might end up being surprised by Red Bull this weekend. They won’t win by any means but exist a fight. Still loving the possibility of a Mercedes dominant era though!

  17. Russell says:

    Hi James,

    With the 2014 regs, shouldn’t your track maps be updated for 8-gears, not 7?

  18. Grant H says:

    Above states chance of safety car 60%….we can throw out the stat book for last years….lets face it got to be 100%….with many people believing 50% of the grid wont see the flag lets be prepared for potentially a lot of laps under safety car!….i doubt teams can really prepare a strategy for this race

    Also top speed is cited at 318kmh….is that not based on last year as teams were going much quicker in bahrain this winter

  19. Jamie Norman says:

    Hi James

    My understanding was there no longer a ERS button for the drivers to press, it just blended into the generall running of the engine.

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes, it is automated, but the driver has an override function for close racing, allowing him to release it in specific places in close combat

      1. Jamie Norman says:

        Cool, thanks for taking the time to answer, much appreciated

      2. Graham says:

        As a related comment James, I notice that the circuit map still shows DRS zones. Can’t the driver deploy the new ERS whenever and wherever is seems to be tactically advantageous, given ,of course, that there is some stored energy to deploy? As soon as I saw the map, I thought this must be a copy/paste error from last year’s race preview.

      3. James Allen says:

        It’s the current map from FIA site.

      4. RodgerT says:

        ERS and DRS are two separate things.

      5. grat says:

        DRS is drag reduction, which reduces drag, increases straight-line speed, and (as far as I know) only available in designated areas if you’re within 1 seconds of the car in front at the detection point.

        ERS is energy recovery, and boosts engine power, and is available for up to 33 seconds (from 6?) per lap.

        There’s also MGU-H ERS (turbo ERS), which I think they can use as much as they like. I think.

      6. Rishi says:

        Thank you for clarifying this James. I was thinking the same thing as Jamie when I read your analysis, and am glad he asked the question.

  20. Ryan Eckford says:

    Hello James,

    I think we are going to see a big shake-up of the pecking order, with Mercedes having the fastest and most reliable car on the grid in my opinion, based on some numbers I have taken down, and weighted accordingly.

    Williams are behind them, Ferrari are within touching distance of Williams, McLaren are within touching distance of Ferrari, and Force India are within touching distance of McLaren.

    Behind them, Toro Rosso have the 6th fastest car, while Sauber and Red Bull are fairly close between each other. Then it is a lottery between Marussia, Caterham and Lotus in terms of outright speed.

    Here are my early predictions:

    Qualifying
    1. L. Hamilton
    2. N. Rosberg
    3. V. Bottas
    4. F. Alonso
    5. F. Massa
    6. J. Button
    7. K. Raikkonen
    8. N. Hulkenberg
    9. K. Magnussen
    10. S. Perez
    11. J-E. Vergne
    12. D. Kvyat
    13. A. Sutil
    14. D. Ricciardo
    15. S. Vettel
    16. E. Gutierrez
    17. J. Bianchi
    18. K. Kobayashi
    19. R. Grosjean
    20. M. Chilton
    21. P. Maldonado
    22. M. Ericsson

    Race
    1. L. Hamilton
    2. N. Rosberg
    3. V. Bottas
    4. F. Alonso
    5. F. Massa
    6. J. Button
    7. K. Raikkonen
    8. K. Magnussen
    9. N. Hulkenberg
    10. S. Perez
    11. A. Sutil
    12. J-E. Vergne
    13. E. Gutierrez
    14. K. Kobayashi
    Ret. D. Kvyat – Powerunit failure
    Ret. S. Vettel – Powerunit Overheating
    Ret. D. Ricciardo – Powerunit Overheating
    Ret. J. Bianchi – Gearbox failure
    Ret. M. Ericsson – Spin/Crash
    Ret. R. Grosjean – First Lap Collision
    Ret. M. Chilton – First Lap Collision
    Ret. P. Maldonado – First Lap Collision (Penalty Points)

    What do you think James?

    1. James Allen says:

      I think your front row prediction is right. I think Massa still ahead of Bottas at this stage, but we will see

    2. Jeff says:

      Your first lap collision between Grosjean, Chilton and Maldonado made me chuckle.

    3. JOdum5 says:

      You’re predicting a terribly boring race. Hope you’re wrong.

    4. Vivek says:

      The first seven finishers in the same order as they qualified – Has that ever happened before?

  21. Deon Venter says:

    Am I missing the plot here?Why does no one mention fuel consumption?Will they review the rule if a certain engine brand can’t live up to it?

    1. IJW says:

      It’s a bit late now that the cars have been built. They can’t make the fuel tanks any bigger, so either they shorten the race, or allow refuelling. The later isn’t going to happen, and as for shortening the race, erm… Basically, if they can’t make, that’s too bad.

      1. JohnBt says:

        What if after 6 races only 60% reach the checkered flag, they might tweak the rules unless F1 wants to be a joke. Viewership will drop horrendously then we’ll hear from BE that the new power train is rubbish.

      2. James Clayton says:

        “What if after 6 races only 60% reach the checkered flag, they might tweak the rules unless F1 wants to be a joke.”

        F1 wasn’t considered a joke in the 90s, when it wouldn’t be unusual by any means for only 60% of the field to finish. Why would it be now?

      3. Deon Venter says:

        @ LJW.”….that’s too bad” doesn’t cut it.If you p@#$% off the race going/paying spectator like myself or the red shirted spectator(Like myself :)),you are going to end up with half empty circuits/stadiums.Doubt that F1 will overcome that in the state it is right now.Planing for Hungary,even if Ferrari doesn’t shape, but if it turn’s into a joke I’m not going.Don’t think I’ll be the only one.

    2. warley says:

      Good point. If rumours about mercs fuel consumption are true mercedes engines could win every race. No wonder di mpntezemelo is crying in hos beer/vino!

  22. Piero says:

    Hello

    can you please explain me how did you calculate the chance of having a at least one safety car in Australia? Latest 6 years is 66% (4/6) and with average interventions at 1.7 the chances of having a safety car should be higher. ( I understand that interventions before 2008 were probably lower, but recent years should count more in this kind of statistics I believe)

    thank you

  23. aveli says:

    we will find out at the weekend.

  24. CC says:

    Although Melbourne is classed as a “street track”, it is more of a “park-land” circuit, similar to Montreal apart from Albert Park lacks a long back straight. The key to lap time at Albert Park is stability under braking, direct crisp steering and good traction. Melbourne will be an indicator of a car’s ability to generate low speed downforce, which is quite tricky feat and more complicated as downforce bleeds off as a driver brakes hard for a slow corner, where as on circuits with fast corners such as Barcelona, Silverstone and Suzuka downforce increases with speed. Generating that low speed downforce – at this moment – it seems the Mercedes and Williams have the edge, although McLaren are not far away.
    Fuel consumption may be not too much of an issue. Melbourne has a high likelihood of safety cars and the lack of long straights mean the cars are not on full throttle/high revs for long. Also, the lack of fast corners is kinder to a car’s oil pressure systems, which are vital in any IC engine, but especially a turbo. A forecast of cooler air temperatures for Sunday will give the engines a better “charge”, which in turn is kinder to fuel consumption.
    In terms of low speed downforce, good turn in and traction Mercedes have the edge – but reliability is an unknown quantity so in terms of results it is unwise to predict the podium.

    1. ManOnWheels says:

      I miss Adelaide.. probably because I have crush on street circuits.

  25. Richard says:

    Would love it to see Williams win this. If there is rain Sunday, we are in for one hell of a race.

    1. Red Rider says:

      Rain and Massa are’t a great combo.

  26. Sasidharan says:

    The new rule which was not written much about so far:
    “Drivers in Q3 will be required to start the race on the tyres they posted their fastest times on in Q2″
    So Q3 will be an give-it-all dash.

    1. Quercus says:

      Bejasus; there’s a lot of new stuff to get our heads around this year!

    2. nickb says:

      That’s the smartest rule of the year so far!

    3. iceman says:

      I’m sure James and his fellow journalists are working on it, looks like that change was only published today!

      Looks like that rule will need a bit of further tweaking. The version published today says that “each car which qualified for Q3 must be fitted with the tyres with which the driver set his fastest time during Q2″; but also “A penalty [...] will be imposed on any driver whose car is not fitted with the tyres with which he set his grid time”, which is contradictory.

    4. Joe B says:

      I didn’t know this, that’s gonna spice up Q3!

  27. AJ says:

    As many unknowns as there are, and with reliability problems being a given, the big unknown for me is the fuel flow rate limit and fuel allocation.

    Reliability will probably be the dominant ‘issue’ for the first few races, but I still see a huge potential for the fuel issues be more controversial than tyres have been in the last couple of seasons.

    I sincerely hope to be wrong, but if we see races dominated by fuel mileage factors with divers cruising around just to stay within the fuel limits that we be a massive spoiler.

    Looking forward to Sunday!

    1. Red Rider says:

      On the up side, if the driver’s are just cruising, they’ll be able to wave to the crowd.

      1. Schnell! schnell! says:

        If they go into enough fuel debt early on they’ll need to go so slowly they’ll be able to sign autographs!

  28. Jipaide says:

    Considering the expected reliability issues, one can imagine several cars stoppingt on track, so chances of a safety car seem pretty high this year. James what do you think of Mika Salo’s comments that Ferrari were sandbagging in Bahrein as illustrated by some very quick sectors followed by very slow ones?

    1. James Allen says:

      I’ve spoken to Ferrari today and I think that they were not sandbagging. They feel they are some way off Mercedes

      1. Sammy says:

        James,

        They are simly not going to tell you, otherwise you would post it on JAonF1 ;)

        I think we’ll see a race like never before. Not sure what that exactly means, but it will be very very interesting.

        I expect amusant FP sessions as well – worth watching this season!

        Bring on the action!

      2. 6 Wheeled Tyrrell says:

        I don’t know either way whether Ferrari where sandbagging or not, but wouldn’t telling you that they where defeat the purpose of doing it?

      3. Michael says:

        I haven’t read the comments but tend to think the same a Salo

  29. Olivier says:

    I am rooting for Felipe Massa this year.

    Why?

    Because I believe in Good Karma:

    1. A Brazilian world champion, 20 years after Senna’s death.
    2. Felipe Massa, world champion in a car that has been overseen by Pat Symonds.

    1. Joe B says:

      It would be poetic, wouldn’t it? I think he’d be a very popular champion after the career he’s had, but I think that Bottas is no slouch either. If Williams truly are competitive (and I have my fingers and toes crossed on that count), that’s going to be a real battle to watch.

    2. CJD says:

      dont forget about rob smedley, i still believe massa also brought quite an assesment with him.

      thats also a small puzzle making him the nr. 1 with williams

    3. JohnBt says:

      Yeah, can understand how you feel, it’s like he’s been release after being sort of a slave to long face. As a supporter of long face I too wish to see Massa in front of Alonso most of the season if Williams can afford upgrading halfway through the season.

  30. Frank Oosterhuis says:

    Race starts quite early for Europeans, but this will keep me awake surely :D

    1. Sri says:

      It is at 2 AM for people on eastern coast in USA. And then we wonder why F1 is not so popular here :)

      1. John T says:

        Yes. The whole world revolves around the US. Guess what time the Texas race is on in Australia?
        You don’t hear us bitching about it.
        If I can’t catch it live I record it.

      2. Sri says:

        “The whole world revolves around the US” — unfortunately/fortunately, yes, at least for our lifetime or foreseeable future. Mine was just a comment, not a complaint, by the way.

  31. VJ says:

    Nice write-up! I have a few questions…
    1
    -
    Releasing all of the stored energy in ERS in one lap will give a performance gain of around 1.5 seconds compared to not doing that. This is the best mode for a single qualifying lap, but in a race it might give short term gain but the system will need recharging on the next lap, so there is a trade-off.
    -
    So the use of the ERS energy is driver controlled, with a button? Are teams allowed to use the energy automatically? E.g. release it when the driver pushes the throttle in a specific way (sudden, harder, …) or in specific circumstances? Possible benefits might be in better distribution of the ERS power or in fuel economy…

    2
    How does ERS combine with the safety car? Traditionally, an F1 car uses less fuel under safetycar conditions. But now, a normal lap uses both ERS and fuel, will they under safetycar also use ERS+fuel, or just fuel? And if it is the latter, do they still use less fuel under safetycar? (perhaps I’m seeing issues where there are none… :-))

    Thanks!

    1. Dave Emberton says:

      They’re going to want a fully charged ERS for the restart, which might be difficult to achieve at safety car pace. So perhaps “safety car mode” will use no ERS at all, and we’ll see the drivers going and then hitting the brakes even more than we do already. Then when it’s time for the restart, the driver selects restart mode and gets the full ERS boost plus fuel for the first few corners.

      They’d certainly use less fuel under the safety car, which means more can be used for the rest of the race.

    2. Ben says:

      1 – As James pointed out to another comment above the ERS will be deployed automatically but the driver will also have an over ride button to deploy it when they want.

      2 – Yes the cars will use less fuel under safety car even if they are not using ERS. As they will be traveling considerably slower than usual – except for maybe red bull and lotus who might be struggling to keep up with the safety car!

    3. Quercus says:

      From what I’ve read, ERS is fully integrated into the power train: in other words it’s in operation all the time. The only other mode is when the driver demands maximum power for fast laps or overtaking, but it won;t deliver the extra power for more than a lap before needing replenishing–so they can’t do two fast laps in a row (which is something to think about during qualifying).

      Because of the above, the cars should be very efficient (low fuel use) under the safety car.

    4. iceman says:

      As I understand it the ERS energy release is always automatic (the ECU decides when to deliver it), but the driver can switch between different maps – like maybe a “max boost” map for overtaking and a more conservative one for consistent lap times.

    5. VJ says:

      Thanks! The posts saying that ERS is automatic appeared after I asked my question. :-)

      I assumed cars would still use less fuel under safety car, but just was curious. Drivers trying to charge the ERS under safetcar might indeed cause interesting scenes.

  32. aezy_doc says:

    The chance of a safety car in this race is quite high I would have thought (60% normally) but with the added fun of cars going kaput willy nilly, we will probably see more than one safety car appear. An engine failure might mean that the cars get to coast to a stop somewhere safe, but brake failures or gearbox shenanigans could leave debris on track or a car in a wall. It’s gonna be immense.

    1. JohnBt says:

      Even without rain I think cars will be slip sliding away as feedback says so from drivers.

  33. Ed says:

    Hi James. I was wondering whether, during the telecast on TV, we will see the ERS boost appear as an icon on the side of the screen as we did last year with the kers. I noticed that on the driver steering wheel there is a button for overtake/boost. Also as a Melbourne native, I suspect we will get rain on Sunday for the race. I wonder how the power units will behave if there is condensation about and also whether the cool conditions will benefit Red Bull. I hope Ricciardo has a great debut for Red Bull.

    1. James Allen says:

      I hope so. I’ve yet to be shown the graphics. Hope to see them tomorrow

  34. Ozherb says:

    I think less than half the field will reach the chequered flag, and one team will have both cars on the podium.

    The Renault powered cars will give away a huge advantage to the rest, and it will be interesting to see how the current 4 time Constructors Champions attempt to claw their way back over the course of the year. Personally I think they are too far behind already to make a serious challenge.

    Whatever happens, I simply cannot wait for the season to get underway (as always!)

  35. OffCourse says:

    Some things that I think are likely to happen………

    1. With general reliability issues such as ERS, high torque engines, imperfectly tuned turbo systems causing lag and brake by wire systems not quite bedded in, we could see more than one driver put their car in the gravel in any or all of the qualifying sessions, so get your banker lap in good and early, because I think more that a few drivers will be caught out by qualifying interruptions. This could result in a mixed up grid.

    2 Delayed start due a car failing on the grid or warm up lap so adjust those PVRs

    3 Fuel wont be an issue due to multiple safety cars, largely due to the issues in 1 above with the addition of a little wet weather.

    4 For those still running towards the end of the race, strategies will be interesting (especially if it were a drying track). With plenty of fuel on board (due to 3 above) do you chase for glory and see what you’ve got or bank the points and be happy you made it to the end? I’d love to see some real racing at this stage, but I think they will take the points and nurse them home.

  36. Quercus says:

    So will we see cars running laps in alternating modes; first an energy-harvesting lap and then a battery-assisted lap?

    Sounds like the drivers will have a lot of new racecraft to learn this year and perhaps the fastest learners (provided their car has reliability) will come out on top. Watch out for one of the newcomers doing well.

    Interesting.

  37. Multi 21 says:

    The weather forecast is interesting.

    The Australian Bureau of Meteorology forecast has been constantly revising the amounts of rain expected on Saturday & Sunday.

    Current expectation is rain developing later in the afternoon on Saturday and isolated showers on Sunday.

    The one thing that hasn’t changed is the air temperature for Sunday – maximum of 19°C. With the race starting at 1700 local time, it is likely to be closer to 15°C.

    If that is the case we may just see a few more cars make the race distance than we are expecting/predicting.

    1. monsterFG says:

      Dont trust to BOM more than one day ahead. Trust me they always get it wrong.

    2. Martin Place says:

      Yes, and Weatherzone have it at a 90% chance of rain for Saturday:

      http://www.weatherzone.com.au/vic/melbourne/melbourne

  38. Martin says:

    One aspect that wasn’t covered but is open for speculation is teams going for a result at the expense of a grid penalty at the next race.

    If overtaking is relatively easy, which I suspect it will be, a grid penalty won’t be too big a deal.

    1. iceman says:

      Interesting idea. Though replacing the entire power unit does mean starting from the pit lane now. You could well imagine Caterham or Marussia taking a 6th or 7th engine towards the end of the season in the hope of getting a single result that will decide their battle in the championship.

  39. Dave Emberton says:

    Good predictions. We’re going to know an awful lot more after P1 and P2 – I’m planning on getting up in the middle of the night to watch them live. Never done that before.

    One thing that worries me for the race is that every breakdown, and everyone expects a lot, could bring out the safety car. At Albert Park and they never seem very good at removing cars from the track, and in modern F1, they don’t just leave them in the way they used to.

  40. Levity says:

    Re: Renault powered cars.
    Fully expect Red Bull to be quick in qualifying, based on their probable ability to run for a single quick lap (Renault will have been hard at work over the past two weeks!): Chances in the race pretty much zero for Red Bull, however.

  41. Garry J. Berry says:

    James, if a driver uses-up all of his 160bhp stored battery energy over a single lap do you know how many laps will it take for the battery system to fully recharge again (or is this circuit dependant)? Or, put it another way, within a single lap does the system discharge on accelerative deployment & recharge when KERS breaking or when the turbo-powered-alternator issues charge to the battery all within the same lap? The text of the article seems to suggest that once discharged the system will take the next lap or so to recover the electrical energy.

    Thanks for you and your team’s fantastic work & the very insightful articles produced.

    Garry

    1. BW says:

      In general, it takes twice as long to charge battery than using all its energy at full power. As the energy is used not only to boost (but also to control the turbo), it might take up to two laps to fully recharge.

    2. monsterFG says:

      That’s what I want know as well, think that team who manages their recharge fastest has a better chance of wins.

    3. RodgerT says:

      He was talking about if the driver uses all the available ERS energy it could take up to an entire lap to fully recharge the battery. During the race the teams will try to run get just the right balance of power use and and energy capture during the lap so that there will be extra energy should it be needed when overtaking or defending.

  42. Charlie says:

    Kimi to win from 17th on the grid….overtaking Fisichella on the last lap.

    1. Joe B says:

      I wish that were every race! :D

  43. Paul says:

    James, surely this can’t be right. If I read this correctly, the performance gain from the ERS is around 1.5 secs/lap. The performance loss due to weight is 0.34 sec/lap per 10Kg. The weight of the cars to include the ERS this year has been increased by about 50Kg. This equates to 1.7 sec/lap. The cars would actually be faster if they threw out the ERS through saving weight, and they would get the advantage every lap without “recharging”.

    So what’s the point of costing the teams an estimated and staggering amount of 1 billion Euros? All it proves (and highlights)is that hybrids don’t actually save fuel at all, when the additional weight penalty they impose is taken into account. They use more energy than they save.

    With the newly emerging dangers of battery dispoasl, particularly in the third world, this issue threatens to be the next nuclear waste.

    Where is the “green” in that! Formula 1 cannot be green, ever. Face it!

    1. iceman says:

      Maybe it means 1.5s compared to running the ERS at the standard, continuously-sustainable level? A gain of just 1.5s doesn’t seem like much if comparing against not using ERS at all, given that it’s at least a 25% power gain.

    2. docjkm says:

      Yo mate. Your comments apply not just to F1.

      Green, pc, get enough distance and the absurdity becomes inescapable.

      Thinking things through only partially is forever both lamentable and occasionally hilarious.

      F1 comedy time. I’m ready to laugh.

    3. tim clarke says:

      you make some great points Paul. the so-called “green revolution” is leading us down some ridiculous paths. for example, in Canada (as elsewhere) they’re banning the incandescent light-bulb in favour of flourescent units that consume less electricity. what irks me is that they’re 7 bucks a bulb. when you’re poor, and you only have seven bucks, you’re going to feed your family. but you’ll be having dinner in the dark. the other thing is that they’re full of mercury. they plan recycling programs, but to think that they won’t end up in general landfills is naive beyond belief. thanks Paul

  44. RustyG says:

    This is quite simply the best pre race briefing I’ve ever read. Concise and factual. Well done to all involved in producing it.

    1. James Allen says:

      Thanks! Please tell your friends

      1. goggomobil says:

        I second that,simply the best.
        Mr Allen if I may ask the question,ERS?,is it a
        160 HP,maximum that is allowed to extract from the system or does it vary from team to team and its development of the system,thus sky is the limit if they are good enough.

      2. James Allen says:

        Max 2 Mega joules in and max 4 mega joules out so yes

    2. Phil Glass says:

      Thank you.. I’d like to second that, and for me it’s crucial as I have been minus F1 info for an age or more.
      When I left Kimi had been paid for the second time by Mansoor Hijaz. However ….

      James, I strongly recommend an absolutely electronics free holiday! It’s a brilliant way of recharging your Motor Generator Unit – Kinetic (MGU-K) and your Energy Store (ES).

      Oz already!! What a season we have in store.. a classic no doubt.

  45. UncleZen says:

    So the electric motor is engaged by the driver pressing a button? I had the distinct impression that deployment was automatic, controlled by a computer (like a Prius) though it would make some send to hold some energy back for the driver to attack or defend with.
    James, can this be clarified?

    Also how much additional top speed does the wider DRS “gap” give? – Anyone know?

    1. KRB says:

      Should be the same, b/c the rear wing is shallower to begin with.

    2. Gustavo says:

      It is automatic, but it has various mappings as the ICE had in the past.
      Said that, you can place a button on the steering wheel that maps the PU to it max power configuration and call it ‘push to passs/defend button’

  46. Chris Ralph says:

    And added to the mix of course is the new lower grip handling on this low grip circuit. A greater tendency for oversteer, the turbo rush and the very high probability of rain will make this first GP of the new era very interesting indeed…

  47. Joe S says:

    For once, I really do not want rain. For the first race of the new era, I want to see how things go in a dry race. Melbourne often gives us an eventful opener in the dry, I honestly think rain could spoil it and leave us with a “What could have been”. Really, I’d like the rain to stay away for the opening few races. Malaysia and China might be likely. I ‘d like if say, Spain was wet.

    1. paul m says:

      Just fyi.
      Malaysia (KL) is experiencing drought with 2.5 months of no real rain.
      There is water rationing around the whole of KL (2 days on, 2 days off) and the haze pollution has become a real issue, especially out at Sepang area.

      We would LOVE some rain, thank you very much!

      Paul

    2. Alexander Supertramp says:

      Look at what the rain did to qualifying last year! They would red flag the race, so yeah, I’m passing on rain.

  48. Andrew Carter says:

    I’m interested to hear where that top speed information has come from, is that from the V8′s as this years cars seem to be a lot faster down the straights in testing.

  49. Chris G says:

    At last it begins!

  50. deancassady says:

    My crystal ball is acting up again; it’s cloudy, which suggests to me that variables are being changed, still now, 08h53 GMT+5.
    I suspect drastic improvements on the Renault power side. Some REenault powered teams may decide to sacrifice an engine for a strong opening race performance, and achieve unexpected (by most) results.
    Mercedes has been hyped so much as the favourite, I can’t help but bet against them, DNF for both Mercedes cars.
    McLaren and Ferrari have been playing the long game; both will bring substantial revisions to Melbourne and both will advance well during the race, but I see one DNF per team.
    I expect both Williams and ForceI to go well (though I am not dismissing the idea of their failure during the race).

    Hey, here’s one for you James, what could happen, if all the teams are going through multiple power units by May; is there any possibility that the teams will get together and say, ‘we have to up the number of units allowed in the season!’ Can that be done with unanimous team approval?

    1. James Clayton says:

      Well… with unanimous team, providing the teams can trust each other, it doesn’t matter if it’s possible in the rules or not. If all the teams decide to add an extra engine on the same race, everybody gets a 5-place grid penalty, ergo the order is unaffected! :D

  51. sunbeam says:

    James. What’s the goss on redbull and a second filming day

    Thanks

  52. Roddie says:

    Last night I dreamed that Rosberg won the race, but Vettel managed 2nd place with a very solid performance; the race was tense until the end. This made everyone wonder how Red Bull managed to sort their problems; they we’re once again title contenders. Jenson Button completed the podium. :)

    I’m glad F1 starts this weekend.

    1. Roddie says:

      * were once again… :P

      1. M_E says:

        you even got the button on podium (albiet by default!….pending appeal of RB)

        :razz:

    2. M_E says:

      that dream was more of a preminition the way things turned out, well wrong driver in p2 but right team :D

      1. M_E says:

        ok, got them, you can delete these two now ;)

        :razz:

  53. forzaminardi says:

    Vettel and Red Bull’s chances are being seriously under-estimated. The Red Bull may lack reliability but it’s not far off the pace. I’d not rule out Vettel starting high up the grid and if he finishes, being on the podium. Similarly I’d not discount Grosjean and Maldonado, at least in so far as qualifying is concerned. Both are swift drivers and their cars are not completely uncompetitive.

    How many times have we seen teams written off on basis of their lack of laps in testing yet put up a good show first time out? Red Bull are the World Champions, Vettel is one of the top drivers, their technical staff is largely stable and while Mr. Newey occasionally struggles with regulation changes, he rarely designs a poor car. They may struggle with reliability, but while they’re running they will put up a good show.

  54. Sebee says:

    Did you guys see the latest Schumi official statement?

    The strong emphasis on privacy only leads me to believe that my theory about Schumi being awakened a while ago and in rehab process for some time makes sense. This whole story of him being asleep is the perfect cover for privacy. If I was his family, I would do EXACTLY the same thing to avoid the media circus. I would then confirm that Schumi is awake once I’d have him at home safe and sound where he can continue to have doctors and rehab brought to him.

    I remember all the doctors saying how bad anything longer than 2 week, 3 weeks, 4 weeks is. I can hardly believe there would be any real benefit of his team of doctors to keep him in a coma for 10 weeks+ after hearing all these expert neurologists chime in on serious risks the longer he’s under.

  55. Ed Bone says:

    Red Bull are the big surprise, hard to think they might qualify around 15th as has been predicted.

    This first race might just have to be counted as a development race for them, a platform to build on rather than one where they can compete.

    But I would expect RB to play catch up pretty fast.

    Same for some other teams. The problems they experience Melbourne will give a certainty about what they lack that could not be discerned in testing alone.

    Come the end of the race on Sunday, all of the teams will know just how far away or ahead they are.

    In particular, the Renault engine will be fully exposed in all its weakness – or perhaps latent potential if they can get things right in the following weeks.

    The race I’m sure us going to be massively eventful, whoever ends up on top.

    Exciting stuff! Can’t wait :-)

  56. seifenkistler says:

    We had a weekend crash course in electric cars at volunteer firefighters 2 weeks ago. A main problem was to know explosion riscs, place and type of batteries, …

    Seeing the battery explosion last year at F1 and now having the bigger batteries…
    Is there a special training for the marshals/firefighters at a circuit?

    Another question
    Would this be the first race for decades where no team has less than the allowed amount of fuel in the tank?
    Is there still any sense in fuel gambling anyhow?

  57. Glennb says:

    What’s the penalty for using in excess of 5 engines? Is it a grid penalty for each replacement after 5? If that’s the case, I can see some teams taking penalties from about Spain :)

  58. All revved-up says:

    Best opportunity for Caterham and Marussia to score points. Hope they do so. They deserve a lucky break or two after all the investments and effort in F1.

  59. SteveS says:

    Not only is the reliability of these cars marginal (and that goes even for the “reliable” Mercedes engined ones) the drivability is marginal as well. We saw a number of experienced drivers get caught out in testing by the power characteristics of these new “power units” and spin their cars off track. We also saw drivers struggling with the braking characteristics of the “brake-by-wire” systems. And this was just in running test laps, the problems will be more severe when they are actually racing one another.

    So, we can expect to see some cars unable to even start, many others going up in smoke during the race, and others crashing out. I’ll be surprised if ten cars complete the race.

  60. Agent Orange says:

    James you “Full throttle – 64% of the lap.”

    Forgive me is this is a stupid question but is that true with the current rules? Isn’t it likely that full throttle will be less this year as if you went full throttle as in previous years you’d run out of fuel?

    1. Agent Orange says:

      Apologies that post was awfully constructed!

      I of course meant “James you say” and “Forgive me if”

    2. James Allen says:

      There will be different stylets at times etc but that is and average from what teams have told me

  61. Paul D says:

    Murray’s magical phrase “F1 is IF spelt backwards” has never been more applicable!

    1. kenneth chapman says:

      errrr no, it’s ‘one F’! use your imagination.

  62. JB says:

    After all my cries about the lack of sound from the new engines, I have decided to ‘let it go’.
    There are many GOOD points that I PERSONALLY look forward to the 2014 season.
    1. more engine less aero rules.
    2. new and complicated race strategy.
    3. higher top speed (due to less available fuel).
    4. more durable tyres.
    5. game changing season (like 2009 all over again).
    6. Quali tyres.
    7. Kimi back in a top team!
    8. Kimi vs Alonso.
    9. Mclaren and Williams comeback.

    Any other goodies else I’ve missed?

  63. roberto marquez says:

    Any similarity with “The Hunger Games” where only one survivor is expected at the end ????

  64. Stephen Taylor says:

    My Predictions
    Qualifying
    1. L.Hamilton
    2 F Massa
    3 N.Rosberg
    4 F.Alonso
    5 V Bottas
    6 K Raikkonen
    7 J Button
    8 S. Vettel
    9 N Hulkenberg
    10 K Magnussen
    11 D Ricciardo
    12 S. Perez
    13 D Kyviat
    14 J E Vergne
    15 E. Guttierrez
    16 R. Grosjean
    17 A Sutil
    18 J. Bianchi
    19 P. Maldonado
    20 K Kobayashi
    21 M Ericsson
    22 M . Chilton ( it had to be really
    Race
    1 N. Rosberg
    2 L. Hamilton
    3. F . Alonso
    4 F. Massa
    5. V. Bottas
    6 S Vettel
    7 . N Hulkenberg
    8 A Sutil
    9 P Maldonado
    9 J. Bianchi
    10 K. Kobayashi
    11 M. Ericsson
    12 M. Chilton
    and that’s it.

    1. brendan says:

      I have a feeling going to be rosbergs year…
      remember where you heard it 1st .. ha, 4/1 for the 1st race might be a gift..
      I would also love massa to do well..and beat Alonso, that would be so funny..

    2. warley says:

      You have certainly stuck your neck out there so good luck with your selections!

  65. dufus says:

    James,
    Will we see you in extended pre-race chats on the tele with One HD crew, Alan Jones etc like last year ?
    Gives us great insight.

      1. kenneth chapman says:

        good news james, always enjoy your chats. most informative and much appreciated.

  66. Lee says:

    Perhaps you should review the forecast for 5pm Sunday bud

  67. Super_Staffy says:

    My Melbourne weekend predictions before a wheel turns in practice.

    1. Vettel puts the Red Bull on pole after sand-bagging for the entire winter test season
    2. Vettel’s cars lasts till lap3 then coughs to a halt
    3. Hamilton leads after lap3 but gets pulled by the cops for ‘sustained loss of traction’ and has a drive through penalty
    4. Alonso sees Hamilton get stopped and is grinning so much his gleaming teeth reflect off the inside of his visor, temporarily blinding him as Raikonnen passes him.
    5. Raikonnen gets a radio message along the lines of “Fernando is quicker than you”. Kimi suggests the pit wall should proceed elsewhere and engage in conjugal behaviour
    6. Massa has time to pit and have a Martini and get back on track before the Marussia unlaps itself.
    7. Rosberg finishes second, Leonardo Di Caprio takes his place on the podium…………….nobody notices!
    8. Massa finishes third and insists he would have won had Hamilton not been recklessly going too fast
    9. Hamilton wins, gets a ticket, breaks up with Nicole, gets back together with Nicole, kisses Ron Dennis then remembers he’s not with McLaren anymore.
    10. Button says all this rule changing is just ‘Not British’.

    I’m sure this is how it will play out!

    1. JohnBt says:

      Lol! You’re not convinced this can be a good season but I like your posting though as it’s comical.

  68. Dimitris says:

    James
    First thanks for this pre race report …
    I would like to ask about the exhaust system that Mclaren has introduced at the pre race season tests and everyone said it will make difference.Do you take it into account by putting mclaren at 4 place below merc williams and ferrari.Is any protest for breaking rules or something…

    Thanks in advance

  69. Stephen Taylor says:

    Merc to win only 4 races this year.

  70. David Pullen says:

    I flew over the track early this morning (12:20am) and noticed a lot of lights on in the pit lane, I guess a lot of midnight oil was being burnt! It would appear quite a few teams are going to be very tired come Sunday evening.

  71. JohnBt says:

    Am somehow excited but at the same time fear dullness during the races as the main issue is fuel saving which means full throttle will not be applied for majority of the race or not at all, not forgetting the non-finishers too. I’m wondering by which race will we see the entire field or let’s say 80% completing the race. Melbourne will see maybe less than 50% completing the race?, we shall see.

    As Alonso has mention this season the strain on the neck will be lesser so I guess one can figure out why so.

    Vettel’s got a lot to proof which is good though. But if the RB keeps braking down then there will be no dialogue.

  72. Sujith says:

    James, is Melbourne known for being fuel hungry? If so, that can be considered as a possible headache for the teams don’t you think?

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes it’s one of the highest fuel consumption races of the year

  73. Sujith says:

    Nico Rosberg said, we know where we are compared to McLaren Williams and Force India. But the worrying thing is we don’t know where is Ferrari? We don’t have a clue.

    Ted Kravitz echoed these statements saying Ferrari have never quite shown their hand in testing so far. Talk in the paddock also says so. Considering the drivers were pretty confident to set a podium finish as a target for them in Melbourne is there more to it that meets the eye.

    At the very least, I think they are in front of others at the reliability stakes especially in the cooling area. They have 2 very intelligent drivers who have proven themselves in 2 other Engine Formulas and countless number of tyre regulations. Considering 2014, they are ready to race in a third engine Formula in their careers. That is a lot of experience!

    1. James Allen says:

      I think Ferrari are at least 0.5s to 0.7s behind Merc at this stage, We will see on Saturday.

  74. panagiotis says:

    I just don’t get it this year how massa has suddenly become f1 favourite driver. No offence but just to remind you that during the last 3 years he has been doomed by all in retirement(just check previous seasons posts), and today has become a championship winner candidate. I mean something must be wrong, or is it not? Some mercedes engines will not make it, but all 6 Ferrari engines will cross the checker flag. Renault engines are at the hands of god. That’s my prediction.

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